Will determine US ties on national interest: Gilani

Islamabad: Pakistan`s relations with the US are "multi-dimensional and important" but the ties will be determined on the basis of Islamabad`s national interests, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said today against the backdrop of growing strains between the two countries.

"We are trying to have an open, transparent, and mutually beneficial relationship with the US based on our national interests," he said. Gilani made the remarks during an address at the army`s Command and Staff College in Quetta.

Addressing a gathering that included army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Gilani further said that his government had improved the country`s relations with all its neighbours, including Afghanistan, India and Iran.

Pakistan-US ties plunged to an all-time low after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year. Pakistan closed NATO supply lines to Afghanistan after the attack and demanded an apology from the US.

Over the past few weeks, strains between the two countries have increased as the US has continued its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan`s tribal belt despite strong protests from Islamabad.

CIA-operated drones have struck eight times since the NATO Summit in Chicago, where Pakistan did not make any announcement about ending the six-month blockade of NATO supply lines.

During his address, Gilani also referred to the security situation in neighbouring Afghanistan.
He made it clear that Pakistan had an "important role to play in the region and it should be taken on board on the decision-making process about the future of Afghanistan".

Gilani said a "thriving, prosperous, transparent, and peaceful" Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan. "We want to play our role in the stability and peace in Afghanistan," he said.

Pakistan is paying special attention to making its neighbourhood peaceful and stable, he contended. At the same time, the premier acknowledged that Pakistan is facing many challenges, including terrorism and the security situation, which are the country`s most important issues. "The ongoing spate of terror has caused billions of dollars in losses to Pakistan," he said.

Over 30,000 soldiers and law enforcement personnel and 5,000 civilians had died in the fight against global and regional terrorism, he said. "I have a firm belief that these sacrifices will lead us to a future where our children and the generations to follow will lead a peaceful and productive life," he said.

Economic growth, national security and democratic pluralism were the government`s top priorities, he said. "As nations prosper under democracies, so do they thrive in the strength of their democratic institutions. Parliament, executive and judiciary all have to work well within their given domains for the achievement of people`s will," he said.

Pakistan faced long periods of non-democratic rule and a look at the balance sheet of political history showed that only democratically elected governments have provided constitutional, political, economic, and security solutions that have stood the test of time, he said.

Responding to a question about the resolution of the grievances of the people of Balochistan, Gilani said his government attaches great importance to the southwestern province.

"On the demand of the Balochistan government, we increased their share in the National Finance Commission`s award to Rs 120 billion from Rs 40 billion; gave provincial autonomy under the 18th amendment in the Constitution, initiated Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan through which thousands of jobless youth of Balochistan were given jobs and took practical steps for empowering the people of Balochistan on their resources," he said.

Gilani said he had instructed the Chief Secretary of Balochistan to designate 35,000 graduates of the province for government jobs.